Monday, May 23, 1983
11 PM. Yesterday I walked to the New Yorker to catch the 4 PM showing of Baby, It’s You.
I liked the movie, which was a very real presentation of how it was in the late ’60s in high school and college.
John Sayles has loads of talent, and he’s my age, too. Boy, do I feel like a nothing compared to him.
It was pouring when I got out of the theater, and I got soaked coming home.
Teresa had straightened everything out with Judy and Gena, who slept in Teresa’s old couch downstairs, in Juliana’s apartment (because Juliana isn’t moving in until the weekend).
When Teresa returned home from her fundraiser at 6 PM, it was good to see her. She fixed me an omelet and told me about the funeral, Fire Island, and the fundraiser.
One of the Governor’s lackeys called her on Thursday with some warning: they’d heard Teresa’s not showing up for work at the DOT.
She was upset by this, and she feels in a bind: she can’t look for other jobs in government and has to pretend that she’s happy in her present position.
We watched TV until, as usual, Teresa fell asleep (she talks through the TV, anyway); then I went to bed myself.
Today I met Stacy outside the unemployment office downtown at noon. She looked very pretty.
Because she had resigned to avoid being fired, she’s having trouble collecting unemployment. We walked to a restaurant near the river, The New Nile, and had lunch.
She sounded kind of dispirited about her career. Stacy said she much prefers the low-key, intellectual atmosphere of academia, but she knows there are no jobs at colleges.
Obviously, she doesn’t want to spend her life crunching numbers; her slowness in doing so was one reason she lost her job with the Transit Authority.
There’s a possibility she may get work in Jeanne’s organization, which has some kind of quasi-governmental functions: using corporate grants, it trains and places young criminals in some kind of employment.
Stacy is getting to the point where she hates New York. They’ve been moving from one sublet to another, and she misses the quiet beach of Rockaway.
Jeanne is from St. Petersburg, and they may eventually move to Florida to be closer to Jeanne’s mother, who has cancer.
Following lunch, Stacy and I sat in City Hall Park and talked for a while. Then we bought the Post to find a movie to see.
She was interested in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and I was agreeable, so we took the bus up to East 34th Street.
The film was in 3-D, and the glasses we had to wear gave both of us headaches and the dizzies; the movie was truly awful, besides. In the opening scene on a strange planet, there’s clearly scaffolding from the movie studio visible in the background, and it got worse from there. Still, it was a novel way to spend the afternoon.
It was hot and humid when we got out at 4 PM and we separated on Fifth Avenue when Stacy went to catch a bus downtown.
It was great to see her again, and I have to confess that I’m still attracted to her. I think she might feel a little bit the same way about me, even if we are both basically gay.
Lesbian or not, Stacy is as sexy as she ever was. I still remember the first time she took off her bra in front of me that night in her bedroom. The timing was always off for us, though, back in college.
When I got back home, I had expected we’d go to the Y, but Teresa was busy with Barbara (who just had her abortion), deciding on further decoration of the living room.
I wanted to eat alone, so I told Teresa I was meeting a friend, and then I went to a local Greek diner by myself. Unlike Teresa, I truly enjoy living alone – I see that much more clearly now.
Teresa spends her evenings on the phone. She made about ten calls last night, and this morning, as I pretended to be asleep, she was on the phone for at least an hour.
All that conversation gets on my nerves, and I’m getting exhausted just observing how Teresa fills up her life with busy-play (the opposite of busy-work).
So many people here do this. They do it in Florida too, I’m sure, but I don’t really have friends there, so I don’t see it.
In any case, I am coming around to appreciating some aspects of my relative isolation in Florida.
Wednesday, May 25, 1983
10 AM. I’m getting behind in my diary, but I was so tired and headachy when I came home last night that I decided to wait till this morning to do Tuesday’s entry.
The major disappointment I had yesterday was, I suppose, a trivial one. A reporter for the Times called yesterday to interview me about the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War.
I’d sent out press releases last week, and she was the first reporter to respond. We had a good interview, and she said she’d try to get it into the “About New York” column, but at 11 PM last night, when I picked up today’s paper, it didn’t make it in.
Oh, well – that’s the breaks. You might wonder why it meant so much to me. I think it would have helped me believe I’m more than some schmucky writer and loser community college teacher from Florida.
Yesterday I got a letter from Patrick, which brought back the whole Broward Community College scene to me. Patrick’s been having trouble getting his students’ assignments done and graded. The college now makes us use one uniform text per course (for English 100, it’s Dave Shaw’s horrible book).
Apparently, there will still be both a Communications Division and English Department chair at Central Campus, but Pawlowski’s taken himself out of the running as division head and will return to full-time teaching.
Patrick had lunch with Phil, who said that Patrick, along with Greg, is one of the finalists for the full-time English position at South Campus. It seems that some of the full-time faculty at Central are so unhappy there that they also applied for the position at South but weren’t considered for the job.
Although I was interested in the goings-on at BCC, it depressed me to think that I’m like these people.
Oh, I never seem to be satisfied. If only I could do something substantial. . .
Yesterday was the centennial of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, and there were parades, speakers, and a sound and light show.
Teresa and I went downtown at 7 PM to meet her Fire Island friends Joan and Rachel for dinner at Caramba!!, a Mexican restaurant on Broadway and Great Jones.
We had a pleasant time and then taxied down to Teresa’s office on the 54th floor of the World Trade Center. We and the other office people, their families and friends, came to watch the bridge lighting and fireworks display.
The fireworks, by Long Island’s Grucci family, were the most spectacular I’d ever seen. The “special effects” were superior to those in any science fiction movie.
We watched them while listening to some Puerto Rican kid’s AM radio (which had to be propped up against the window to get a signal) that played John Philip Sousa, Scott Joplin, and other composers of the era of the bridge.
I felt proud of being from Brooklyn. As a kid, seeing the bridge from Brooklyn, with the Manhattan skyline behind it, I always felt I was looking at a mythical land, a kind of Oz where anything was possible.
One hundred years ago, of course, the Bridge was “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” an amazing achievement by Washington, John and Emily Roebling and the workers who built it. There can be nothing like that today.
I watched the fireworks from one of two 110-story towers, but I can’t imagine anyone celebrating the 100th anniversary of the sterile, utilitarian World Trade Center. In contrast, the Brooklyn Bridge is a work of art: it has dignity and mobility; it feels human.
I guess in some way, I did make it across the bridge into that magical land.
From the Manhattan side, looking at the bridge with Brooklyn in the background makes me feel I’m coming home, home to my childhood, my adolescence, those streets I grew up on.
People come from Brooklyn and eventually leave to make up America and the rest of the world.
I liked the celebratory aspect of the bridge centennial: everyone was in a festive mood, and for once, there seemed to be no racial, religious, social or political tensions. Maybe I’m making too much of it, but it seemed the kind of transcendent experience we need.
Helmut is wrong about America; he can’t understand that we are the one global nation on earth. Helmut hates capitalism as corrupt, but the competitive people he despises came here from all over the world to make a go of it.
The Korean fruit-store owners, the Indian newsvendors, the Haitian cab driver last night who was so disgustedly annoyed – in a very New York way – about taking us into the crowds last night: I admire them even though, as Helmut claims in his letters, they may be blinded by the lure of money or consumer products.
Hey, I’m sounding like a real Reaganite asshole here.
Yesterday I got to work out at the Y again, thanks to Amira, who got me a pass. Although I made myself nauseated, my muscles don’t feel sore today.
I’ve been feeling that without my intense Nautilus workouts, my body is falling apart – although I was flattered on Monday when Stacy said I have the shoulders of a football player. God help me, I’m still sexually attracted to Stacy, as I am to Ronna.
I really should have seen Grandma today, but I intend to spend four or five days in Rockaway next week. Even though Teresa will be away then, I need a breather from the hectic pace of Manhattan.
Kitty Oliver of the Herald phoned and interviewed me about being a Florida Arts Council grant recipient for an article she’s doing.
Thursday, May 26, 1983
Midnight in Florence, South Carolina. Today has been one of the most grueling and hectic days of my life, but I’m amazed at how well I’ve coped.
Of course, I have to be up in seven hours and I have fifteen manuscripts to read before then, so I don’t expect to get much sleep. Just a couple of hours would be a godsend. I have a raging headache and feel completely worn out.
Yesterday seems so far away: I sat in the park for hours and then had a great dinner with Ronna at The Front Porch. We talked about our problems, and she really made me feel better; I wish I could help Ronna the way she’s helped me.
When I got back to the apartment, Teresa and her friend Betsy talked as I lay on the couch, trying to sleep. I was up at 7:30 AM and out of the apartment an hour later.
It was pouring in New York, and I got soaked getting to the subway, but the connections were fairly good: IRT local to Columbus Circle, A train to the Port Authority, bus to Newark Airport.
I was at the Piedmont terminal an hour before my scheduled flight at 11 AM, and I read the paper and felt my usual pre-flight jitters.
The takeoff was nerve-wracking, as usual, and my ears kept getting clogged up, but the flight was pretty smooth. I didn’t feel like eating the lunch they served, however.
When I landed in Charlotte, Susan was there to meet me at the gate. Outside, it was sunny and quite warm – about 80°, the hottest weather I’ve experienced since I left Florida three weeks ago.
On the way to her place, Susan told me she’s won a Guggenheim and will be spending the next year in Europe; naturally, she’s thrilled. She’s been practicing her French like crazy.
Susan told me about a wild affair she had with the critic John Simon, who was passionate in letters, kindly when she first met him, and an absolute monster when she spent a week with him in New York.
When I mentioned that Susan seemed tired, she said she’s been giving too many readings and teaching at too many conferences; just this past Monday she gave a reading at Spoleto.
This winter she taught with Judy Cofer at University of South Florida in St. Pete, and they met again at a conference at Augusta College; Judy also came to Winthrop to do a reading. (The other day, when Kitty Oliver interviewed me, she mentioned she had just talked to Judy for her article, too.)
Apparently, Susan had a lot of errands to do, so after she parked, we left Charlotte for Rock Hill. Since I was hungry, she let me off at Tam’s, but it was closed, as was the nearby coffee shop, so I ended up walking half a mile to the golden arches of McDonald’s.
It was very bizarre, and quite hot. I walked back to Tam’s, where Susan picked me up, and then I went with her for an eye doctor appointment that ended up lasting an hour.
At 5 PM, we were finally on our way. The 110-mile trip took over two hours, and we ended up at the home of Tony Murphy, an English professor at Francis Marion, his wife Marian, and their two teenage sons.
Bob Parham and his wife came over. Bob is still in crutches from his bout with phlebitis. He briefed Susan and me on the conference and gave us the manuscripts and schedule for tomorrow.
I have to be up for breakfast at the Student Union at 7:30 AM; all morning I have conferences and then a workshop in the afternoon. On Saturday, I have a mini-workshop and give a reading. The worst will be over by 4 PM tomorrow.
Tony and Marian invited some teachers, some relatives, and some friends over for a party, during which a terrific electrical storm shook their house for hours.
Although I was exhausted and didn’t feel much like making conversation with strangers, I did my best to pretend to be charming, if not vivacious.
Susan was staying with the Murphys, but I had to be driven to a student apartment by the Parhams. We had trouble finding the place, and I got wet and muddy on my way here.
What a day! So much went wrong, but I behaved like a saint. Let’s hope the rest of this trip isn’t a complete disaster.
Friday, May 27, 1983
5 PM. I don’t remember ever being so tired. I just took a mess of vitamins in what is probably a vain attempt to keep myself from getting ill.
I just walked the mile or so to my apartment and took off my clothes and lenses. I did not sleep at all during the night, and I felt sick to my stomach. The best I could do for sleep was a couple of waking hallucinatory semi-dreams.
But somehow I got through the day.
The students at the conference are nice, but I have the feeling the college isn’t giving them what they want.
However, I can’t do much more with so little time to prepare and such low pay. The $300 I’m getting won’t really cover my expenses; while I’ll probably break even, I’m doing this essentially for free.
Susan discovered that because she’s already a South Carolina state employee, the taxes taken out will cover more than half of her fee and she’ll have to wait more than the two weeks I will to get paid.
Poor Bob Parham is in a lot of pain, and he really shouldn’t be on his feet so much; I’m worried that he’s retarding his recovery from phlebitis.
At 7:30 AM, with the help of some of the Elderhostel people, I got breakfast at the Student Union cafeteria. Then I tried to read as many stories as I could.
I had only three conferences from 9 AM to 11 AM because almost everyone went to Susan’s workshop. At 11 AM, we had a coffee break, some introductions by Bob, and signing up for more conferences.
Lunch was outside – hot dogs and hamburgers on the barbecue, which I literally and figuratively ate with relish – and then I had an hour of conferences.
After that, exhausted and voice-weary, I stumbled into a classroom and lectured – doing my usual schtick – for two hours.
Although I did the best I could today, and Susan did even better, I know some students are disappointed. This isn’t Bread Loaf, of course, but it’s not even the Winthrop College conference last November. But we work with what we can.
Too tired to attend Susan’s reading – I’ve heard her read several times already – I lost my way here and didn’t get back until after a long, frustrating walk.
I’d feel like crying, but I’m too exhausted. To think I could have spent Memorial Day weekend at Teresa’s or relaxing at the beach at Grandma’s, and instead I’ve put myself through all this grief.
Why did I have to make this so stressful for myself? I feel like such a jerk – and an unappreciated jerk, to boot. Am I getting anything out this other than seeing how much I can endure?
I won’t do this kind of thing again, that’s for sure.
But in a way, my whole writing career is that of a sucker: I’ve basically given away all my works, all my stories, and have gotten nothing tangible in return. Except to look like a fool.
At least Susan has tenure and a full-time job teaching creative writing, not to mention her Guggenheim, which will give her both time and money. I have neither.
Giving the writing students here those pep talks just makes me feel a lot less peppy myself. I feel drained, and I still have to read and go over seven more manuscripts for tomorrow when I have conferences from 9 AM to 11 AM. Then I give a reading for an hour, if my voice holds out.
I’m full of caffeine; I’m full of emptiness. Someday this will probably all seem like jolly good fun, but it’s a hard-won way to put an extra line on my résumé.
For the rest of the year, I want to concentrate on myself and my writing. The conference ends at 1 PM tomorrow, and I guess I’ll drive back with Susan to Charlotte.
She hasn’t been feeling well herself, but she’s a real trouper. It’s nobody’s fault – except maybe the college administrators’, for being tightwads.
The experiences I’ve had here will undoubtedly enrich me – just meeting new people, being in a new place (with “swamp gas” in the morning!), testing my stamina. But right now I’d prefer to be at home, any home – Rockaway or Manhattan or Florida – and in bed.
Dinner soon, and then a party. Oh boy!
10 PM. I’m tired and achy and hoarse and probably on the verge of a bad cold, but I’m inclined to believe that it’s all worth it: not merely the trip, but also being a writer.
Where else could I have met such friendly, interesting people? At dinner and at the party afterwards, I talked with so many fascinating people – even those elderly people here for Elderhostel, which seems like a wonderful program I’d like to tell Grandma about.
I’ve always known that writers – would-be writers even more so – are the best people, and I feel it more strongly after listening to their intelligent, sensitive conversation, the kind that is always in short supply, even in Manhattan.
I’ve learned a hell of a lot about South Carolina and Florence, and I’m more certain that ever that big cities have no monopoly on brains and culture. If only there were a way (outside formal academia) where people like this could meet more often.
Susan egged me on to tell my silly publicity stories, and ham that I am, I didn’t need much egging. Bob and Ann Parham were superb to me, and I met Bob Maren, the provost here at Francis Marion who hired Susan was he was dean at Winthrop.
What a quality guy Bob Maren is: At the lineup for breakfast this morning, he was pouring coffee for students, and at 5 PM, he was back, sincerely thanking the black cleaning women for the work they were doing.
I still think Southerners have the friendliness and spirit the North could use. But the country is getting all mixed up, and even little towns like Florence are no longer isolated.
I hope to get some sleep tonight, but if I don’t, I’ll survive.
Saturday, May 28, 1983
11 PM. In Charlotte, at Susan’s apartment. I did sleep well last night, but I’m very tired now anyway.
This morning I got up, packed my things, and walked over to breakfast. It was cool and the air smelled swampy. (Of course, Francis Marion was the Swamp Fox.)
My conferences began at 9 AM, and I was probably guilty of patronizing a few people. But of course so many of them come to writers’ conferences not for criticism, but for outside affirmation of their belief in their talent, and while I don’t lie to anyone, I don’t think I hurt them by being encouraging. I certainly tell everyone not to quit their jobs.
Anyway, some people, like one daffy elderly lady, come merely for fun.
My reading began a little late. There was a big crowd, and the Murphys came. I read “But in a Thousand Other Worlds,” parts of Eating at Arby’s, and “The Autobiography of William Henry Harrison’s Cold.”
Then the poetry and fiction awards were given. The woman whom I’d selected for the fiction award was ill from overdoing it at the party last night, so she’d already left. And then we all said goodbye as Susan and I got a big round of applause.
She and I went to the apartment to take out my stuff, and then we drove over to the Murphys’ house, where Tony and Marian served us lunch on the porch and where we had lots of pleasant conversation for a couple of hours.
Susan and I left Florence at 4 PM and were back in Rock Hill at 6 PM; the drive was uneventful. She stopped at the college to pick up her mail, and we tried to call Dennis and Cathy to see if they wanted to meet us for dinner, but no one was home at their place in Lancaster.
Back in downtown Charlotte – they call it Uptown here – Susan and I walked over to a nearby restaurant, where she let me buy her dinner. We’ve talked so much today, I feel I know her very well; she’s been a superb hostess and tour guide.
I admire Susan’s tenacity and honesty; she seems to rise above the bullshit of academic and literary politics, and her Guggenheim gives me hope.
This neighborhood is being gentrified, and the houses around here are gorgeous and stately, nicer than those in the Garden District of New Orleans.
I called Mom to wish her and Dad a happy anniversary. She said the University of Missouri wants me to come to Kansas City for an interview on Thursday. I have very mixed feelings about it, but when I asked Susan for her advice, she said to go for it.
Sunday, May 29, 1983
11 PM. Back home in the city. Teresa’s in Fire Island, freezing in the rainy weather, and Gena and her kids got their visa to return to Saudi Arabia, so I’m alone for the first time in a long time.
Last night I slept pretty well on Susan’s couch. This morning we again were unable to reach Cathy and Dennis, so we had brunch at the Radisson Hotel, part of the NCNB complex, which reminds me of the Citicorp Center.
Uptown Charlotte is definitely undergoing a revival, and it probably will be thriving soon.
Although the day started off cool and cloudy, it cleared up through the afternoon as we sat around Susan’s condo, chatting and reading the papers.
As she drove me to the airport, I thanked her dozens of times, and when she dropped me off, I gave her a big hug and kiss. I feel we’ve gotten to know each other extremely well during the past few days. Since she’s going off to Europe for a year, I probably won’t see Susan for a long time.
The flight back was a bit rough as we flew into the stormy Newark area, and I was more nervous as usual. Still, we made it down by 6 PM. I’m pretty familiar with Newark Airport by now, so I quickly hopped on a bus to the Port Authority and then grabbed a cab uptown with my plane seatmate and his young daughter.
I really did feel that I was home when I arrived here at the apartment. I played back Teresa’s messages – there was one for me from Alice – and then called her with news of my trip and to give her the messages.
I went out to dinner on Broadway and then took care of the batch of mail Mom sent me. I paid some bills; George needed my birth date for the CCLM Award application; there were some invitations and brochures and the usual garbage.
When I phoned Josh, he told me that I’d made yesterday’s New York Times. A little while ago, I walked to 79th Street and got a copy of the Saturday paper, thanks to the grudging but helpful Indian newsvendor.
In the New York Day By Day column, there was an item called “One Man’s Crusade”:
As the candidate of the Committee for Immediate Nuclear War, Richard Grayson was in New York this week campaigning for the Presidency.
Mr. Grayson, a committee of one, reasons the warfare would solve such problems as “boredom, soap operas and peddlers on 14th Street.”
Mr. Grayson, a short-story writer from Davie, Fla. – his works include “Lincoln’s Doctor’s Dog” and “With Hitler in New York” – says he has filed a statement of organization with the Federal Election Commission. He wants to draw voters’ attention to the “silliness” of nuclear war.
“If we don’t have it now, we might as well never had one,” he said from his New York “headquarters” – a friend’s apartment – before leaving for whistle stops in South Carolina. Mr. Grayson plans to return soon for more low-budget stumping. Thus far, only eight New Yorkers have signed his petition in support of him.
“And those were mostly from people who didn’t understand what I was talking about,” he said.
Could I ask for more? Of course not. I feel very proud and very lucky.
This weekend’s trip was worth it. As Susan said, all these little publications and conferences and readings and publicity do add up to a career. I may never get a Guggenheim, but then again, there are other, comparable awards.
As for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I’m unsure whether I’ll go to the interview.
On the one hand, I’m scared. I’ve been in this position before, and I’ve chickened out on interviews at Murray State, Ithaca, Morningside and other colleges. Maybe it’s time to test myself.
On the other hand, at this point in my life I still may not be ready to go to a place like Kansas City and live there all alone. If I recognize that, it doesn’t mean that I’ll never be ready to take a job in a strange place.
I shouldn’t chastise myself: Look how well I’ve gotten through the last few days. A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to perform half as well as I did on the trip to South Carolina.
For an agoraphobic and once-housebound teenager, I’ve managed to become a mensch, and I don’t need to prove something by going to Kansas City.
Monday, May 30, 1983
8 PM. I’m in bed for the night. Half an hour ago, I got soaked – literally to the skin – making my way from the subway.
It will be miraculous if I don’t get sick. I’ve been on a crazy schedule lately and under lots of stress, and I’ve been getting a lot less exercise and sleep than I need.
Even last night, I didn’t get to bed until 3 AM, and I had to be out of here by 9 AM, when the maid arrived. But I did have an eventful day seeing friends.
Josh arranged a meeting with Todd at his house late this morning. We walked around the Heights and had tea at Josh’s place. Sometimes Josh can be so obnoxious that I want to shake him.
Todd is 40 now, but he’s still a naïve, idealistic dreamer. He talks about the encouraging rejection notices he gets from Redbook and The New Yorker as if they meant anything.
I think I may have been brutal with him, but he needs to toughen up. Todd is the sweetest guy you’ll ever want to meet – and that’s his problem.
After leaving Josh’s apartment at 2:30 PM, I had lunch downtown at the counter of Junior’s. I called Elihu, but he was on his way out; he did see me in the Times, though.
Then I called Justin, who said to come over, so I took the D train to Park Slope.
After chatting with Ari for a while, we left their apartment and went over to the Park Cafe for lunch. (Yes, I had two lunches today, but I just got a bagel at H&H for dinner.)
Although Justin is happy to be out of his last job, he’s worried about making ends meet. Probably he’ll start doing temporary work.
I like Justin, but only as a friend. The silly way he dresses and his histrionic gestures, for example, make it impossible for me to think of him as someone I’d want to be involved with. I guess he’s just not my type.
I think I disappointed him by saying I didn’t really want to read his Bliss screenplay, but I didn’t want the burden – especially since I was lugging around the story Todd gave me. I don’t know how to evaluate a screenplay, anyway.
After I told Justin I’d see him on my next visit to New York, we parted on Seventh Avenue with a hug. A block later, I came across June and Cliff, who were on their way to a barbecue.
They were pretty friendly, but as usual, I was too preoccupied to ask them about their lives once Cliff started telling June about my Times article, which he’d read. I’m much too self-involved and narcissistic.
Walking up towards Flatbush Avenue, I decided to see if Susan Mernit was home, and I was in luck. She’d been working on her novel, and Spencer was at home, ill with a fever.
Susan gave me Tylenol for my headache and we sat in her office, chatting about my trip. She said that Susan Ludvigson’s friendship with Cathy was jeopardized when Cathy slept with David Huddle last summer at VCCA on a weekend when Susan, who’d been with David up until then, was away.
Hm. Perhaps Susan wanted to use my visit to South Carolina as an excuse to see Cathy again.
Anyway, Susan Mernit said that Susan Ludvigson is an excellent poet who will probably go very far and get a job at a first-rate university in the next couple of years because she is too good for Winthrop College.
We gossiped about Bread Loaf, John Gardner, Judy Cofer, etc., and I left at 6:30 PM, taking the D train uptown.
Teresa called just as I was dozing off to tell me that everything had worked out fine in Fire Island: Ted arrived just as she was seeing Amira off at the ferry.
I have to go spend time with Grandma in Rockaway, and I’d like to see Larry while I’m there. But I’m starting to get a little antsy in New York and think I’ll be more than ready to go back to Florida in a few weeks.
As for the University of Missouri-Kansas City, I’m just not ready to go there, even if I got the job.
Tuesday, May 31, 1983
8 PM. I’m sitting in Grandma’s kitchen in Rockaway, looking out at the rough waters of the ocean after yet another dark, drizzly day; this month didn’t turn out to be very springlike at all.
Grandma went out to play cards and shouldn’t be back until 9:30 PM.
I took advantage of the quiet last night to get eleven hours of sleep, beautiful sleep, with elaborate, mazelike dreams. It was noon before I got up, and it was quite luxurious to lie in bed so late.
I took the subway into Brooklyn, where I had lunch and xeroxed the Times article, which I’m sending to some people.
When I called the University of Miami financial aid office, they told me that I have to come down there and sign some forms and also give them my IRS return.
It was about 4 PM when I got here, and before I knew it, Grandma was cooking dinner and complaining of loneliness and angina. Although it really isn’t easy for her, she doesn’t make enough effort to get out.
I did call the University of Missouri but got no answer. Obviously, I’ve decided not to go to the interview. I just don’t want the job.
However, when I start to complain about not being able to make ends meet, I’d better remember that I passed up the chance to interview for a job which would have put me in a good financial position.
Even after only a few hours, it seems depressing to be here in Rockaway. I can’t really talk to Grandma about anything since she only vaguely apprehends what my life is about.
Mostly she sighs, rolls her eyes skyward, and says, “Someday. . .”
There are still people I have to see before I leave New York. I’ve got to call Brad and Elihu and Larry, Mark and Consuelo, Wesley and Marla, Gary and Vito and Sybil and Alice and maybe Avis.
9 PM. I called Elihu, and that conversation just about did me in for phone calls tonight. He’s so loquacious, I can barely get a word in when I call him: one remark from me leads to a flood of verbiage on his part.
Elihu went to a doctor today to take a blood test; because he’s been so promiscuous, he’s worried about AIDS, especially because the incubation period can be as long as two years.
Elihu says – and he would know – that AIDS has changed the New York gay community. Everyone knows people who have AIDS, and many know those who have died.
According to Elihu, most AIDS victims feel they’re being “punished” for being gay.
“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Anyone who thinks that needs a psychiatrist as well as a physician.”
Still, I can understand the psychology of blame. It was probably the lack of self-worth that led them to seek out anonymous sex in the first place.
My own feeling is that while I’ve never been promiscuous – and now, with AIDS, of course, I never will be – I don’t think God is punishing gay men any more than he is punishing people with herpes, cancer, or birth defects.
I’m loath to make moral judgments, but probably it was never a good idea to go to baths or cruising spots to trick with a dozen strangers a week.
Now Elihu and his friends go out in groups and seek out entertainment rather than just sex – “which in a way is positive,” he reports.
As for me, the chances of getting AIDS are very slim indeed. Sean is the only guy I’ve had sexual contact with, and he probably wasn’t very promiscuous.
Elihu’s doctor told him: “Try dating.” It’s a new concept for him.
I don’t know how long I can spend in Rockaway, but the quiet will give me a chance to catch up on my reading and thinking.
Tomorrow is June, and I have to return fairly soon to Florida – and the daily grind. But it’s been great to be out of it for this month in New York.
Where do I go from here? is what I have to figure out.